Autumn sights and sounds at West Runton and Beeston Regis Heath
Although the arrival of autumn signals the end of the breeding season for most of the woodland and heathland wildlife, it is arguably the most beautiful time to visit with many heath flowers coming into their prime, migrating birds passing through and leaves changing hue. And you may be lucky enough to see one or more roe deer
The widespread common heather or ling and the more showy bell heather cover the heathland with purple.
The beech, oak, hazel and birch trees go through many colour changes, eventually carpeting the paths with yellow, brown, orange and gold. The gorse provides valuable cover for birds and nectar for insects, the hardy yellow gorse flowers throughout the year and look closely to see the many different spiders webs, glistening with dew in the early morning. In the sunshine the flowers give off a warm coconut smell.
Autumn is a prime time for migration, watch out for redwing, fieldfares, brambling and woodcock all passing through from the continent. There is a plentiful supply of food with flowers seeds, rowan berries, various nuts and blackberries and an abundance of insects. Smaller birds such as chaffinches and gold finches flock in large groups from Scandinavia.
On the woodland floor you will see a variety of fungi emerging especially in a damp year. The massive networks of fungal mycelia in the leaf litter and topsoil are producing lots of fruiting bodies that produce reproductive spores. They appear at astonishing speed, look out for earth balls, fly agarics, false chanterelles and parasols. Be aware that many species of mushroom are poisonous.
Look around and you often see lots of small brown moths flitting about as well as the last of the butterflies red admirals, brimstones and commas.